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NSWAS Graduate Creates Summer Camp for Palestinian Refugee Children

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | September 8th, 2007 | Comments No Comments

The following blog is one of a series of interviews with hopeful, intelligent young adults who grew up in Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam (nswas.org), an Israeli village of 25 Jewish and 25 Arab families who have lived biculturally — and peacefully, if not always harmoniously — for 30 years. The full interview and podcast may be heard at American Friends of Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam (oasisofpeace.org).

“I think it’s an achievement,” said an adamant Ranin Boulos, 22, of Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam’s accommodation of schoolchildren from outside the Village. “When I started going to the school, it was a very small school [of] only the children from the Village. [There were] only 10 kids. We used to sit in the same class studying different books. Slowly, the school grew up. When you see people from outside the Village sending their kids to a school that is not in their area, it means the message of the school is really working. People want their kids to get the kind of education our school provides.
Ranin Boulos
“The kids who get this kind of education tend to be really strong people who can make a change. I do believe that change comes from individuals. So encouraging this kind of change and making it happen, is basically helping a generation make a change!”

Ranin went to an all-Arab Greek Orthodox high school after the integrated education she had at the Village.

“It was difficult at the beginning,” explained Ranin. “The kind of education we got at the Village was about freedom, freedom of choice. The other school was all about rules and restrictions. To be honest, the way we grew up in the school, we have a very strong political awareness and are involved and active. I think the majority of people outside the Village don’t really have this kind of awareness, and it was difficult for me to sit in class when people didn’t really care and weren’t active.”

Ranin just graduated from the University of London, where she was a scholarship recipient of the Olive Tree Trust, a program that awards scholarships to Palestinian and Jewish students to live and study together for three years. She expressed her frustration with visiting American students’ lack of political awareness:

“We used to talk about politics. A teacher asked me to present our conflict [about] the Middle East and how hard it is to live in Israel being a Palestinian with everything going on. All the Americans in the class didn’t know anything I was talking about. Nothing. They didn’t know what Palestine is – one of the girls thought I was talking about Pakistan! I said to her, ‘With all due respect, you come from the United States. Your country is the country that is most involved in this conflict, how come you don’t know anything about it?’”

To complete her program, Ranin has established a summer camp at Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam for Palestinian children living in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories. This year, she arranged permits for 45 children from Kolcharem. Although the refugee camp is only a half-hour from Jerusalem, it took the children seven hours to maneuver the checkpoints. She said they arrived at Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam exhausted.

“They went through a lot of checkpoints – and searching – and they are kids!” she said angrily.
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